I haven't really tracked the details of managed services in much depth to date. Clearly, there is a general trend towards mobile operators outsourcing chunks of their deployment & ongoing network/service operation to a spectrum of suppliers, many from the infrastructure industry, such as Ericsson, Nokia and Lucent.
A press release on a Nokia deal in Australia caught my eye this morning:
"Nokia will be responsible for managing Vodafone Australia's ongoing network operations covering HSDPA, 3G, GSM and core networks infrastructure including the detailed design, engineering, optimization operations as well as network management, monitoring, fieldwork and maintenance services for the networks"
Now, it's nothing to do with this specific deal or Nokia in particular, but it got me thinking. Where an operator outsources much of its radio and access network expertise, what happens in the future if its needs around indoor coverage, backhaul and so on, change radically? I've written before about the apparent disconnect between many carriers' radio engineering groups and their service/marketing functions.
Networks are not often designed & dimensioned with an eye towards new generations of devices, applications, use cases and so on. The fact that indoor-centric/high-bandwidth social-networking Web2.0 services (YouTube, maybe) may migrate to handsets is unlikely to be directly linked to decisions about antenna placement. Cell optimisation is a essentially a black art, involving much tuning & tweaking by specialists.
So... what happens when these specialists don't even work for the same company? And are governed by a rigid contract set up years previously? Does the "disconnect" get even worse?
"Oh, hi... we work for operator X's video application team. You guys manage our radio network, right?"
"Yeah, well, we've been getting some complaints from customers that our whizzy new OurTube service seems to really slow down, especially when they're using it at school & in apartment blocks downtown. It's disastrous, because we've got this TV tie-in thing where we should be getting a million users doing it simultaneously for a competition".
"Which specific buildings? Haven't got a clue I'm afraid. When can you fix it by?"
"Your managed services contract? How long? Then whose problem is it??!"